GRANVILLE, W.Va. – It is no secret that J.J. Wetherholt can take over games for West Virginia. But on Friday night, it was Wetherholt’s double-play partners, Grant Hussey and Landon Wallace, as well as Wallace’s five-tiered toolbox, that set the foundation for the Mountaineers’ 10th-straight win.
No. 12 WVU (35-11, 12-4 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma (25-21, 9-10 Big 12) 9-3 Friday in the first of a three-game series at Monongalia County Ballpark. Friday starter Ben Hampton earned his fifth win of the season in the process.
“We brought in [Wallace for his] bat,” head coach Randy Mazey said. “He’s always been a good hitter, and has hit for a little bit of power, and hit for a high average, so you just recruit good players and let the chips fall where they may.”
Wallace was responsible for each of WVU’s first three runs in some capacity. Monongalia County Ballpark happy-hour beers were still cold when he launched a two-run, opposite field home run in the first inning for a quick 2-0 WVU lead. Shortly after, and with the lead cut to 2-1, Wallace flashed his arm and glove when he cut down OU baserunner Dakota Harris at home-plate on a base-hit to left field to end the third inning. Wallace is spending his first season as an outfielder after transitioning from first base this preseason.
“We do infield-outfield almost every single day,” Wallace said. “So it was just more like practice out there. We practice it all the time. [It] felt great, release [was] good [and we] got him out. That’s all that matters.”
Hussey added insurance by scoring Wallace in the third inning with an RBI single of his own. He finished the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, including an RBI double in the fifth. Ellis Garcia (2-for-4), Dayne Leonard (2-for-4) and Braden Barry (2-for-3) all tallied RBI singles to bolster the Mountaineer-lead.
Oklahoma entered Friday’s game comfortably leading the conference in stolen bases against league opponents with 58 on the year, and WVU was in second-place with 42. The Mountaineers stole five bases Friday to Oklahoma’s zero. Tevin Tucker also gained sole possession of second-place on the all-time WVU stolen base record-board with his 65th career-steal. Bill Marovic holds the record with 74 steals.
Hampton went six full innings for the fourth-straight start. Only two of his twelve starts this season lasted fewer than five innings. He allowed seven hits and two walks, but he also stranded five baserunners in the process. His ERA drops back below four at 3.95. In each of the first three innings, Oklahoma left a runner on third base.
Righty Aidan Major threw three innings of relief after Hampton, and he also earned his second save of the year. Major allowed two runs and struck out three batters.
“[Hampton] really had to grind that one out,” Mazey said. “They out-hit us 12-to-nine. We had to make some real pitches with men on-base, which is what veteran guys do. [Major] went out there and let some guys on-base, but when they got on-base, that’s when he made his biggest pitches, so that was a real grind on the mound to get out of there with three [runs allowed].”
With Friday’s victory, Mazey (331) trails former WVU coach Steve Harrick (333) by just two games for third-most wins all-time by a WVU baseball head coach. He can gain sole possession of third place with a sweep of the Sooners. Dale Ramsburg (1968-94) and Greg Van Zant (1995-2012) each have over 500 wins.
Game two of the WVU-OU series takes place Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. for Military Appreciation Night at Monongalia County Ballpark.